May 5, 2019 | Something Better: Pioneers, Suffering, and Glory (John 20.19-29 & Hebrews 2.10-18)

John 20.19-29 (NIV)

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”


When scripture introduces us to Jesus …… Scripture pushes us to think big. 

  • Like the beginning of John’s Gospel – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
  • The things Paul wrote in Colossians – “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
  • Or the verses we looked at last week from the beginning of Hebrews – “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

Jesus is big. 

When we look at Jesus we are supposed to think big – like God, the creation of the world and everything we know … or the force that sustains and holds everything together … 

Jesus is big, but there is something special about Jesus’ bigness. Often, it seems like the bigger … the more powerful … the more influential someone is, the more inaccessible and the less relatable that person can be. 

Jesus’ bigness isn’t like that. 

Jesus is big and yet, he is accessible … he is relatable. 

I think that is why when John tells us stories about Jesus’ interactions with his disciples after his resurrection, John highlight’s the scars on Jesus’ hands and side.

There is a story that during the 1860’s (around the time the Salvation Army was just getting started) there was a man making his way through the English countryside claiming he was Jesus. The guy was evidently very charismatic and a pretty good public speaker. He claimed he could perform miracles. He started to draw more and more attention. A crowd started to follow him. The story goes that one evening this guy was speaking to a big crowd when a Salvation Army band showed up – playing their trumpets and tubas, they marched up to the front of the room … right up to the guy claiming to be Jesus. The band’s music stopped and one of them spoke. 

“Are you really the Christ?” he asked. “Tell us plainly.”

“Yes,” the speaker said. “I am Christ returned to earth.”

Staring him down, the spokesperson for the Salvation Army said, “Very well, then, show us your hands.” 

Then the whole band began to play a hymn that was about how we will know our Savior by the scars on his hands. (Long. 45).

Suffering is an essential part of who Jesus is. If people talk about the bigness of Jesus, the power of Jesus, but don’t seem very interested in his scars, if they don’t talk about his suffering, if they don’t seem to show solidarity with those who are hurting … we should probably have our guard up … we should probably ask to see their hands.

When Jesus was crucified and buried, his disciples, the people who knew him best, were genuinely heartbroken. They couldn’t bear the thought of not having him around. (I think that is important to keep in mind – people actually enjoyed being around Jesus!) Then, when he wasn’t there, they didn’t know what to do … they were afraid … they were hiding. After, Jesus was raised from the tomb, after he had suffered and was killed, dying in one of the most painful and humiliating ways the world at that time could imagine … after he surprised everyone, rising from the dead, revealing that evil, death, and the worst people can do will not thwart God’s ultimate purposes, we learn that Jesus still bore marks of his humanness. When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he had those scars where the nails had been driven into his hands … he had that scar from the gash where the Romans jabbed a spear into his side. Even in his resurrection Jesus still bore the marks of pain and suffering.

As the author of Hebrews tries to encourage a group of discouraged Christians, the author reminds them that Jesus is big …  and at the same time, Jesus took on humanity’s flesh and blood … Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is relatable. Last week we were reminded of Jesus’ bigness … that Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory … the exact representation of God’s being … Jesus is big! And today, in our reading from Hebrews 2, we are reminded that Jesus also shared the hardest and most painful parts of our human experience … and because of that, Jesus is accessible and relatable. Because Jesus suffered he is able to identify with us … with every part of our lives, the good stuff and the painful stuff. 

Hebrews 2:10-18 (NIV)

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.

He says,

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the assembly I will sing your praises.”

And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”

And again he says,

“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

In Hebrews, the preacher wants the church to remember the fullness of Jesus … fully God … fully human … with God at the creation of the world, but not above suffering … the glue that holds all things together, but with scars marking his hands and side … the pioneer of our faith … the one who suffered and who, through his suffering, led and cleared the way so that we can live our lives in relationship with God, right here and right now. Hebrews is convinced that because Jesus experienced the highs and the lows … the joys and pains of human life Jesus can relate fully to us … I think that is good news – Jesus has participated in every part of human life … Jesus not only understands pain … Jesus has experienced real pain … Jesus relates to our pain … Jesus meets us in our pain.

I came across something that stuck with me this week – Reflecting on Hebrews 2, Tom Long writes:

In terms of participation in human life, Jesus is made perfect in the sense that suffering joins him completely and emphatically to the human condition. Through his pain Jesus becomes a “brother” to every other human being, and this a radical theological point. The Preacher is saying that when the gaze of the eternal Son of God encompasses a criminal on death row, when the glorified Son sees a homeless woman crawling into a cardboard box to keep from freezing in the night, when the Lord of all sees a man robbed of dignity and purpose by schizophrenia, when the divine heir of all things sees [a parent grieving … a person with a terrible disease writhing in pain] … [Jesus] does not see a charity case, a pitiful victim, or a hopeless cause. He sees a brother, he sees a sister, and he is not ashamed to call us his “brothers and sisters” (2:11). The Son of God does not wag his head at misery and cluck, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Instead he says, “There because of the grace of God I am” (Long, 42).

There is so much about life that I can’t explain … there is so much pain … so many ways people hurt … but when I look around … when I hear about the weights people are carrying … I am grateful for Jesus … I am grateful that Jesus weeps with us … that he is one who suffered and that he relates to us … that because of God’s grace … because of God’s amazing, beautiful, earth shaking grace … Jesus is right there … right there with us in the thick of anything and everything we experience in life. 

Whatever it is we are making our way through, we have a Jesus … we have a Lord, who bears scars, who identifies fully with us, and who even calls us his brothers and sisters.